I recently recorded some mid tempo catchy pop rock song with a singer/guitar player. In these sessions I learned some things I wanted to share with you.
Before I even started recording, I checked that the arrangement workes out. A good arrangement can make or break a song. In this particular case it was a song with the same chord progression repeated over the verse and chorus. To add a bit of variety we changed the instrumentation in the verse and chorus part of the song and the way it was played on the guitar. Sometimes I added some keyboard parts underneath, just to create a little uplifting feeling.
A shaker and tambourine added some excitement as well. They’re barely audible, but if you mute them, you would notice it immediately. The trick here is to not having too much instruments playing at the same time.
Sessions won’t get any better if they last longer. Recording basic vocals and overdubs in short sessions (~3 hours) is definitely practicable when everything is well prepared (lyrics, arrangement, …).
For instrument recording this may be different. Vocal sessions tended to be more exhausting. Both for the singer and me, the engineer. Ask your artist how he/she wants to handle it.
Keeping the focus
I created a list of the things I wanted to record and prioritized it. Important stuff was on the top of the list. This helped me to keep the focus and not forget anything to be recorded. Great background vocals won’t do you any favor if you haven’t recorded the lead vocals yet.
Space for experimentation
It’s good to be focused but a little bit of experimentation might help lifting the song to the next level. For example we tried a different approach on the background vocals or a variation in the melody line. Keep it simple and stupid.
Recording alternative takes
Why should you do this when you know the recorded performance is good?
That’s true, but often you will listen to it the next day and find out that this is not the case anymore. Therefor I recorded 2 to 4 takes to have an alternative take or compile a new track out of these takes. But to be honest on some tracks this was kind of a mistake, since it took a lot of time listening through all of these takes and picking out the best performance. It’s best to have a vision while recording and decide on good takes as early as possible. Saves you a lot of time before mixing the song.
Listening to music for long time let’s your ears get tired. Some people call this “ear fatigue”. The only thing you can do in this case is to take a break or listen to the recorded material the next day. You’ll be surprised how different a performance might sound.
So these were some of the things I experienced while recording. Hope this might help someone who starts out recording his/her own or other people’s music.